AFTER A CONTENTIOUS hearing yesterday, a judge granted a request by prosecutors to withdraw more counts and an additional alleged "episode" of wrongdoing in an indictment against six ex-narcotics cops accused of conspiring to rob alleged drug dealers.
The pretrial hearing before U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno was heard before jury selection began yesterday in the racketeering-conspiracy trial of the six ex-cops: alleged ringleader Thomas Liciardello, 38; Brian Reynolds, 43; Michael Spicer, 47; Perry Betts, 47; Linwood Norman, 47; and John Speiser, 42.
The July 29 indictment lists 22 "episodes" of alleged wrongdoing when the six were on duty from Feb. 28, 2006, to Nov. 7, 2012. In recent days, the feds filed motions to withdraw three of those episodes and related counts.
Robreno already granted the government's motion to remove two of those episodes. Yesterday, an argument was heard regarding the third episode, one involving alleged victim Christian Cirigliano.
Speiser's attorney, Michael Diamondstein, argued that the government shouldn't be able to amend the indictment. In a court filing earlier this week, Diamondstein contended that the government's motion to withdraw the episode "is nothing less than an attempt to hide and whitewash a fraud."
Diamondstein said in his filing that Cirigliano - whom he identified by his initials, C.C. - had perjured himself while testifying before the investigating grand jury. He contended that the government's desire to remove any mention of his case at the ex-cops' upcoming trial is a "vain attempt to spare" federal agents and prosecutors "the embarrassment and scrutiny" that would come from the government's calling a witness who had perjured himself.
Diamondstein pointed out in his filing that Cirigliano had told the grand jury that $3,200 was stolen from his home on March 7, 2010, but alleged something different in a lawsuit he filed against Speiser and other cops.
Diamondstein also contends that except for Cirigliano's testimony before the grand jury, Speiser would not have been charged in the indictment.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek vehemently argued otherwise, saying that Speiser had put himself in the alleged racketeering conspiracy. Wzorek pointed to another episode in which Speiser was present on Nov. 7, 2012, when he, Liciardello and Reynolds allegedly took $3,900 from Michael Procopio after a traffic stop.
It was Speiser who falsely stated on a police report that no cash had been seized from Procopio, according to the indictment.
At one point, Wzorek, appearing frustrated, looked at Diamondstein and told him he would "make myself available" to testify on the witness stand so that Diamondstein could hear what other evidence the government has against Speiser.
Wzorek also contended that Cirigliano - whom the feds also identified as C.C. - had not perjured himself but instead had made inconsistent statements. In a court document he filed Monday, Wzorek said the government only recently learned of Cirigliano's lawsuit.
Diamondstein also is seeking to have all charges against Speiser dismissed. The judge is to rule later this week.
Opening statements in the trial are slated for March 30.